Ok so right off the bat I know that this climb is going to be a giant cluster on the first lap and my position is going to be key. I put that in my mental file of "important things to remember for tomorrow's race". Once we got to the top of the monster climb the trail had a few little rollers followed by a long fun descent. I discovered by surprise that there were two short but very steep shots down sand covered rock that could turn into trouble if I wasn't paying attention. Point #2 for tomorrow's mental file. Other than that, the dirt was tacky and really fun. Thanks to Rotem pointing out a few better lines and the rain calming down a potentially sandy mess, I was feeling pretty excited for the race. I had carefully made the necessary mental notes and was stoked to have a good spot on the call up list. The start list was stacked with the usual "A-listers", but for this race I was more focused on my personal goals and less star-struck than at Bonelli. My nerves were already way more controlled and this course felt way more comfortable.
I slept like a baby and was feeling good on Saturday morning, ready for self redemption. Thankfully, breakfast went down much easier than 2 weeks ago at Bonelli. Amazing how much just getting one race under my belt helped the nerves. Call ups began and I was second row...much better than dead last like Bonelli! I couldn't help but smile, it seemed like so many things that just weren't quite right at the Bonelli race seemed to be great here in Fontana! This was going to be a good race day!
|Start of Lap 1|
The start whistle sounded and we were off. I held my position as best as I could remembering the 1st important point--position will be key on this first climb! Then, I made rookie mistake #2 of the weekend- I got behind the wrong wheel! Here we were on the first pitch of the long climb and I saw Carolyn and Sarah take an alternate line on the right side. For a split second I considered following but I stayed the course. Crap, wrong decision! I chose the line of girls who were rubbing tires ultimately causing all of us to clip out of our pedals and begin pushing our bikes! Ahhhh, how could I do this? This was one of the keys to my race, hold your position! As much as I told myself to "stay calm, its really early" I could feel my sense of urgency rise when I looked up to see the train of leaders nearing the top. I finally made it back on my bike and managed to climb a bit more only to get caught in traffic again. Erica Tingey and I had both gotten caught this time...2 rookies frantically scraping our way to the top. I couldn't help but laugh after the race when Sarah, Erica, and I sat around recapping our races and Erica jokingly had to remind herself during a suffer-fest that this was no I-Cup race! Once again, I got a big fat 'welcome to the pros' reminder! We finally got to the top and got to breathe for 2 seconds while we enjoyed some fast flowy descents. Somewhere during the second lap I realized that my shifting was off a bit. It got worse and worse and by the time I got to the descent on the third lap, the shifter for my rear derailleur was able spin a 360 without changing gears-meaning I had 2 gears--Hard and hardest! Rookie mistake #3 of the weekend: Know your equipment and make sure it all works! All the things that had been going well at the beginning of the race had done a 180 and now not much was going right. Problem was, the things that were going wrong, were mostly self-inflicted! I jumped off my bike once I hit the feed/tech zone. Brandon looked at me in dismay. "What?" he blurted out! "I have no shifting. Do you have a tool?" I yelled back! I stood there hoping that from the time I left him at the start til now, he had underwent some transformation from supportive husband to super mechanic! No such luck, even the couple of mechanics who had stuck around the pit had no idea how to fix the problem. We did a run though of all the things we did know how but we could only get the derailleur to move up by a gear or two. There was NO WAY I could climb that hill for the 4th time in that hard of gear. I had to granny it the time before. A race official approached and asked what my status was. I looked at Brandon who was just as disappointed as I. "I'm out, I guess" was the only thing I could say.
Seriously! I had never experienced this in my 3 years of riding...not being able to finish due to crashing, mechanicals, or just plain being lapped by faster riders. We fortunately ran into a friend of ours in one of the team tents, who after tinkering with my bike for a few minutes figured out what had gone wrong. I simple screw had come loose. I DNF'd for a screw-I'm so stupid! He tried to make me feel better by saying that he had never seen this and we wouldn't have known how to fix it anyway. I thanked him and made my way to the car. Disappointment and discouragement! No other way to put it! I shed a few tears, took some deep breaths, and took in the encouraging words from my friends Sarah and Erica. Ok, I've had my crash and mechanical for the year! What I really needed was to finish a race-outright.
Sunday came along and my legs felt pretty fresh considering I only did 3 laps the day before. Goal for the day: finish the race! No mechanicals, no crashes, and don't get pulled! Just finish and not in last place. I had challenge ahead of me once again starting in last place due to my DNF the day before, and on a course with little room to reposition yourself. But, mission accomplished. I did finish and not in last place. Though not a stellar performace, I finished. I'm officially 0 for 2 on finishing XCO races and 1 for two on short track. I have 3 weeks until Sea Otter, the next Pro XCT. I have a lot of work to do until then. I have to get faster, figure out how to turn off my pain receptors in my legs, and get back to being comfortable on my bike! In the meantime, I'll race the second I-Cup race in Hurricane. I'm hoping it will be a little like comfort food! A comfortable place and the friends with whom I learned to race.